For ecosystem research to be truly integrated, it is essential that data can be pooled across sites, experiments and years to feed into models. Such data integration is much easier when core variables are measured in com-parable ways. The degree of standardisation of protocols varies greatly from one area of ecosystem science to another. Therefore, part of the work of ExpeER involves establishing which core variables would benefit from standardisation, developing standards for these protocols, and training people, both inside and outside the ExpeER project, on how these can be implemented. Such measurements are intended to complement, not replace, environmental monitoring already happening at the individual sites. Moreover, this exercise is not just restricted to ExpeER; it is hoped that this will help integrate the monitoring of ecosystems around the world.
The work has progressed in four stages: first the protocol topics were selected; then protocols were proposed; these were tested at a training course during 2012, and revised before two training courses open to non-ExpeER scientists and technicians in the summer of 2013.

Selection of core variables

Protocol selection drew upon a list of indicators of ecosystem structure and pro-cesses, from which a core set of protocols was derived using a combination of questionnaire, workshop discussions and engagement with modellers and other stakeholders. This work built on recent work on standardisation within LTER-Europe and the Life+ project Env-Europe, ensuring integration between different research communities.The core set of variables (Table) was agreed in the spring of 2012, although this was subject to later revision during protocol development.

Protocol development

The development of protocols followed in an interative fashion. Draft protocols were developed and compiled into a handbook used for a field testing session held in Italy on 27-31 August 2012 near Rome. This week-long course included field visits to forest sites, some grassland work and lectures and discussions indoors and in the labs. Nine protocol developers and fifteen others  (including students and post-doctoral staff) discussed and tried particular protocols. This work led to recommendations for protocol development. It dealt with metadata and quality assurance issues as well as data gathering techniques.

The final set of protocols is:

  • Ecological integrity indicators > Protocol
  • Matter storage > Above ground biomass
  • Matter loss, nutrient cycling > Decomposition
  • Habitat diversity, habitat management > Land use and management
  • Energy capture > Leaf area index
  • Faunal diversity > Soil macrofaunal diversity
  • Matter storage, element concentration > Soil organic matter – C & N stocks
  • Metabolic efficiency > Greenhouse gas emissions from soils

More details on D2-1, D2-2 and D2-3.

Information management and data access

Guidelines will be provided to ensure the use of common vocabularies and metadata discovery systems will allow an international interoperability of ExpeER data base. Technical tools for data sharing will be provided and a common data policy established.

  • Metadata Framework: Work on the metadata standard guidelines has been progressing well with strong cooperation between David Blankman and the LTER-Europe / EnvEurope community leading to metadata profile based on EML and tool suitable for ExpeER HIOS. Work is underway to review said EML profile to make it fit for purpose for ecotrons and ecosystem experiments. A drupal production metadata portal building on the DEIMS Module developed by Inigo San Gil (US-LTER) will be hosted at CEH to provide metadata management service to LTER-Europe.
  • Data architecture (semantics): Vocabulary work has been making steady progress with the establishment of strong links to EnvEurope for the development of an Environmental Thesaurus encompassing links to controlled vocabularies such as CAST, ChEBI, GEMET, EARTH, NatureSDI+ as well as the US-LTER Topics list and parameter lists from Nitro-Europe. An iteration of the vocabulary development and a hands-on introduction to the tools will happen in the near future.
  • Data policy: Data questionnaire building on the work from EnvEurope has been adapted to capture the adata management requirements and state of play as well as expectations from Site Managers has been circulated. A data policy is expected to be released in the next months.
  • Data sets specified for the map user interface: A couple of datasets are identified (Severn and Moor House) but more exemplar datasets will be determined as a result of the data questionnaire that Mark Frenzel has started to circulate for the data policy.

Training courses

The final protocols need to be disseminated across the community. As a first step, training sessions were conducted for people involved in ecosystem measurements at sites outside the ExpeER community, in Rome (20-24 May 2013) and Amsterdam (26-30 August 2013).
The second step will be the publication of the protocols of the ExpeER website; this follows the training courses, to allow for continued development of protocols arising from the experiences of the training courses.

The training was organised with three days at the CNR research area Rome 1, mostly with class-room presentations on protocols but also some practical sessions (soil macrofauna, soil respiration) and two days in the field, visiting two experimental sites in beech forests (LTER – EnvEurope site Collelongo - Selva Piana and LIFE+ ManFor C.BD. experimental forest at Chiarano – Sparvera) and practicing Leaf Area Index, Soil organic matter, land use type and tree biomass protocols. A total of 25 people, including the trainers, participated to the training week. Approximately one third were PhD students. The protocols of the 7 (out of 10) parameters trained were at different stages of development; all of them needed more work, but some only require fine tuning. The training helped a lot in focusing the needs for refinement.
More details on MS8.


The training course was held at the CNR Research Area Roma – 1, located in Montelibretti, 30 km North – East of Rome from the 20th to the 24th of May. The course, developed from the TERESA-PER (August 2012), was the first ExpeER training week aimed at non-ExpeER participants. During this course 7 of the protocols were trained by means of lectures, lab-practicals and field excursions. The practical field part was performed within the park of the premises of the CNR Research compound. During the last day, trainers and trainees visited the Castelporziano Reserve, part of the ExpeER Trans-National Access (TNA) site Rome-Lecceto. Participants in the course (15 trainees) were PhD and Post-doc students, but also researchers from Universities and Research institutes involved in field work. Participation was from eight different countries. Feedback from participants were used to further improve the protocols and to finalise the organisation of the 3rd Training week.

The Amsterdam SAPER training week was organised at the VU University from the 26th of August until the 30st of August, and was the second SAPER training week aimed at non-ExpeER participants. During this course 10 of the protocols selected by WP2 (MS 6 and 7) were trained by means of lectures, lab-practicals and field excursions. During the training week, a park with trees near VU, a dune area near Zandvoort, a wet peat-grassland near Zaandam and a dune area near Bergen aan Zee were visited and the protocols were trained during these visits. Participants in the course were mainly PhD students, but also included a number of post-docs, technicians and field-assistants working at European Universities and diverse research institutes Evaluation of the protocols by the participants will be used to improve them and formulate a list of recommendations for a potential next training course (more details in deliverable 2.2). The protocols will be finalized and published on the ExpeER website and spread among the site managers of ExpeER sites.
More details on MS10